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Psych or Occupational Therapy?


From: C.E. – Can you explain what an occupational therapist would do regarding emotional regulation compared to a psychologist. I thought that because it’s all to do with emotions that would mean I need to see a psych? 

I LOVE this question. It’s not asked often actually, and it caused me to reflect which is never a bad thing. Firstly, our roles can seem to ‘cross-over’ on the surface, and in the most essential fact of providing support to help people live their lives, there are similarities. But our roles and training overall are very unique and distinct.   

Psychologists, at least to my understanding, are considering the brain facilities and psychological capacities of people and using this information to explain how and why certain behaviors may be occurring. They can then use this information to guide which thinking strategies can be used to work on these skills.  

Occupational therapists consider the functional impact of emotional dysregulation within the specific activity(ies) that people either want or need to do in their daily life. How this is supported varies based on the individual preferences/considerations of that person. For instance, we may consider how sensory, motor, social, environmental or academic factors are impacting the person’s ability to participate and using this information to drive our intervention support. 

Both approaches are completely valid and beneficial to the development of emotional regulation skills. It is probably worth noting here though, that if you are considering how emotional regulation may be related to a formal diagnosis of some sort, you will need to go through a psychologist, generally speaking. Some occupational therapists have done additional training accrediting them to be able to make diagnoses but more often then not, a psychologist would be your starting point if this is on your mind.  

Great Question! 

Luke – Occupational Therapist